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What is Spinal Trauma?

Spinal trauma can be broken down into events such as car accidents, direct injury, bites, gunshot wounds and multiple medical conditions. Depending on where in your dog’s spine he is injured, you may see different signs and symptoms. Your dog may become incontinent, lose his ability to walk, and experience great pain.

Due to the largely varying nature of the symptoms your dog may experience, his spinal injury could mimic other injuries or conditions. It will be important to bring your dog to his veterinarian to provide relief through diagnosis of the problem.

Spinal trauma in dogs is defined as any injury to a dog’s spinal cord that results in ongoing injury and issues. These injuries account for up to 2% of all injuries of dogs brought in to their veterinarian.

Spinal Trauma Average Cost

From 531 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,000

Symptoms of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

Symptoms may vary in your dog depending on the type of injury and what caused it. 

  • Acute onset – You will most likely notice symptoms come on quickly and suddenly after an injury or trauma
  • Loss of function – Your dog may lose some if not all function of his legs or lower half of the body
  • Ataxia – There may be a loss of coordination in your dog’s limbs and this may give him an unsteady walk
  • Pain – Your dog may begin to experience pain in his neck, back, and limbs due to the spinal injury 

Types

Types of spinal trauma injuries are broken down into 3 broad categories.

  • Intervertebral disk disease (aging disks that harden and cause pain, discomfort or paralysis) 
  • Trauma (car accident, gunshots, falls, bite wounds)
  • Blood supply being blocked to his spinal cord
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Causes of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

The causes of your dog’s spinal trauma will be either medical or accident induced. The causes will reflect the type of spinal cord injury.

Car accident

– In the event your dog is hit by a car he may experience an injury to his spine that could result in partial or complete paralysis, pain, loss of coordination and more

Gun shots

– In the event your dog is the victim of a gunshot wound, he may suffer injuries to his spinal cord resulting in pain, surgery or other issues

Bite wounds

– Depending on how severe the bite is and where it is on his spinal cord, your dog may experience pain, paralysis or long term nerve damage among other injuries

IVDD

– Due to old age and hereditary issues your dog may develop compression of his spine resulting in pain, discomfort, and loss of use of his limbs; has been found to be somewhat common in Dachshunds 

Restriction of blood flow to spinal cord

– More likely to impact large breeds, however miniature Schnauzers have a high rate as well; happens when blood flow is constricted to the spinal cord by obstruction or other means of prevention of flow

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Diagnosis of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

Diagnosing of a spinal cord injury will need to be done by a veterinarian as the injury will most likely not be one that can be seen by the naked eye. Your veterinarian will want to perform a physical exam and her primary goal will be to stabilize your dog. 

Once he is stable, your veterinarian will need a full history and any indication of injury, trauma, or fall that could be causing his symptoms and your concerns. Your veterinarian will want to rule out other possible disorders or underlying causes of his symptoms through testing.

Some of those tests may include X-rays, CT scans and MRIs to determine where the damage is and how severe it is. These tests are typically done while your dog is under anesthesia and without too much movement of him so as not to injure him any further.

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Treatment of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

Treatment will be largely dependent on the type of injury your dog is experiencing. If the injury is only a partial cord injury, the prognosis is better. When the cord injury is more severe, the prognosis goes down. This is because when your dog’s spinal cord is only partially injured, the nerves can pick up the slack of the lost nerve endings versus a complete severance where there are no nerves left intact.

Surgery may be necessary to release pressure on your dog’s spinal cord, and to treat any open wounds or other secondary injuries. Medication management is rare and typically consists of steroids to help with inflammation as needed. One medication used is PEG, which if used within 72 hours of the injury, can prevent nerves from breaking completely and allow the spinal cord to heal better. 

Depending on the severity of your dog’s injury he may begin to recovery within a few days to weeks after initial diagnosis. However, if your dog loses his continence ability, that may not return and if he has complete paralysis that may also not be fixed.

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Recovery of Spinal Trauma in Dogs

If your dog is no longer able to perform normal bodily functions such as urination or defecation on his own, that will result in a lifelong change for him and you both. If his ability to walk or be mobile is taken away that can also change his lifestyle and may result in changes to his environment and mobility means.

Follow up appointments will be necessary after surgery as directed by your veterinarian and to check for any further issues or progress of his symptoms. Your dog can begin to get better within a few weeks once the underlying and immediate cause are treated.

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Spinal Trauma Average Cost

From 531 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,000

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Spinal Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Pitbull mix

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Arch Back, Limping With Front Right Paw And Knuckling On His Left Back Paw, Has Trouble Standing From Lying Down, Whines When He Tries To Lay Down

I want to know why he is limping because he started limping suddenly with his right front paw but his back injury has kind of been slowly getting worse for the last week

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is difficult to say without seeing him, but from your description, it sounds like he may have a spinal injury or a disc problem, or a pinched nerve. Those can cause different legs to be painful or not useful. If he is whining, he is probably in pain, and this sounds like something that should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to examine him, assess neurologic function, and get medications for him so that he is more comfortable and can have use of those limbs. I hope that all goes well for him.

Aug. 7, 2020

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Jack Russell

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Immobility

My dog has a wound between his shoulder blades and he isnt moving his hind legs, he's holding his body very stiff but he's eating and drinking normally when fed by hand, but he seems to be having difficulty breathing

July 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It sounds very much like your dog should see a veterinarian as soon as possible. I'm not sure if the wound is related to the other problems you are describing, but it does seem that he needs veterinary care. I hope that he is okay.

July 18, 2020

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Pit Bull

dog-age-icon

Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Poor Movement In Back Legs And Collapsing

My vet says that my dogs sudden inability to walk correctly in his back end is spinal trauma. Since my dog can still urinate and poop and also walk, does he have a chance to recover?

July 15, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Many dogs do recover form spinal trauma with time, medication, and physical therapy. Without knowing more about your dog or the particular injury he has, it is difficult for me to say, but if he has control over his bowels and bladder, that may be a positive sign. It would be best to discuss this in more detail with your veterinarian, as they know your dog's individual situation. I hope that he is able to recover normally.

July 15, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My aunt bet my dog a bit harder on its back just above the tail due to his naughtiness. Will this cause paralysis to my dog.

July 14, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I can't imagine that your aunt could bite your dog hard enough to cause paralysis, no. If your dog is having problems, it may be unrelated, and a veterinarian would be able to let you know what is going on once they have examined your dog. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

July 14, 2020

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Apollo

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Newfoundland

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12 Weeks

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Pain When Lifted

Our puppy Apollo tried scaling his crate and got himself wedged in the door frame of the crate. His hind legs were in the frog position when I found him and he has since not be able to move them significantly. He is able to wag his tail as usual and x-rays were negative for orthopedic issues.

Aug. 29, 2018

Apollo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without knowing more about the injury that Apollo had, or being able to examine him, I have a hard time saying what might be wrong, or how to treat him, but if he has seen your veterinarian recently, it would be a good idea to ask them more questions about him, what might be going on, and how to treat him.

Aug. 29, 2018

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RR

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Dachshund

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

My dachshund will be 12 years old this July. He has a history of seizures which are well controlled with keppra and gabapentin. In 2017 he had a very bad seizure that left him in severe back/neck pain. He was able to stand and very rigidly ambulate. We took him to his regular vet and he was started on tramadol, methocarbamol, and a steroid (forget if it was decadron or pred) and crate rest. He did not seem to be getting any more comfortable so we brought him to a neurologist. He had an MRI and was diagnosed with IVDD. They kept him inpatient for a few days to control his pain with IV meds (steroids/opioids) and also added amitriptyline to his med regimen to help with anticipatory pain and neuropathy. We then started him on laser therapy. Opting not to have surgery at this time. Well a few months of this and all was well. He was no longer in pain, you could see his muscle spasms (in his neck) subside, and he could get around just fine. Sometimes his back legs were a little stiff but he didnt seem to mind, He would bark if he wanted to go up the stairs or get air lifted onto the couch. Well.... fast forward to this week. I found him off of the bed and laying on the dog bed on the floor in the morning which would never happen because he generally waits for you to lift him off the bed... and he was not able to walk or stand. He could wag is tail and move his head a bit but could not stand. Brought him to his neurologist they gave him decadron and methadone injection. We went home with decadron, valium, and an increase in the frequency of his gabapentin. However, he did not improve at all and subsequently became in visible severe pain. Kept calling the neuro specialist but with the limitation with COVID I couldn't schedule an MRI and did not want to bring my dog over an hour away in pain in the car if I was not sure if he would be seen. Finally found a different neurologist. He had an MRI and subsequent ventral slot surgery for C4-C5. The vet said it went well but the spinal cord is still very inflamed and bruised. My pup is home now on tramadol 25mg TID, robaxin 125mg TID, gabapentin 100mg BID, Keppra 125mg BID, and decadron 0.5mg QAM. He still cannot hold himself up whatsoever and does not attempt to. It seems that his pain is controlled and he has been having a bowel movement every few days and peeing at least once a day on the wee wee pad he is lying on. Then i wash the area. I try to flip him from laying on one side to the other side every few hours. I youtubed PROM exercises to try to move him around a little bit. Is there anything else I should be doing? Unfortunately, with the nature of the healthcare environment right a lot of aftercare services like PT and laser therapy are not available. Any signs that I should be watching out for him? Any indicators of deterioration or improvement? He still as an appetite and is drinking with the help of an oral syringe.

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Peanut

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Miniature Fox Terrier

dog-age-icon

9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Panting

Spinal She lifts one leg up when walking , then all of a sudden she like gets a shock and shoots forward running and yelping in pain , and can’t understand why or who has hurt her . Now she is traumatised and won’t go outside unless she is right by you , and no longer wants to go to the toilet as she associates going outside with pain . X Ray shows small area between pelvis has a mark ? But no fractures . She pants and shakes when distressed usually when she goes outside or wants to go toilet .

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Glacier

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German Shepherd

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21 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Incontinence
Shivering
Trouble Walking With Hind Legs,

We have a 21 month old 7/8 German Shepard (GSD). Other than being about 20 lbs smaller than most the vet said she appears full blooded. About a week ago, after my dog came in from using the restroom, we noticed her favoring her left hip. We didn't think a lot about it other than maybe she had a sore muscle from jumping onto the porch or something. I am 5 foot 2 in our back porch comes up to my hip. After about 3 days she began swing her lower half around when she walked and would occasionally fall over. I then called the vet and brought her in. After x-rays they said nothing was broken but there was a small narrowing of her spinal cord near her coccyx most likely due to inflammation. We were told that there may be some cartilage damage or a hematoma that they can't see. We were told there's nothing to be highly concerned about. That her brain and her spinal cord are not communicating like they should. After three days we brought her home, with instructions from the vet to do bicycle type exercises with her and to try to get her to walk as much as possible. Since we have gotten her home from the vet she has been urinating and defecating on herself. We just got her back yesterday. We were told she should be walking like a person after 4 tequilas within three weeks and it can take six months or longer but she should make a full recovery. My concern is that doing therapy before she is healed my cause further damage.. she has also begin to get cold easy and sugar to where we can hear her teeth chattering. I don't know if this could be from pain or medication.

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Wilson

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Rhodesian Ridgeback

dog-age-icon

9 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Drags Right Hind Leg
Pain In Lower Back

I was throwing the ball for my dog, how I usually do, when all of a sudden, he got to the ball, reached down for it and it seemed like his hind legs gave out from underneath him, with his hind quarters dropping to the ground. He yelped in pain for a good 20-30 seconds, dragging himself 20 feet or so to my rv. Now he drags his right hind leg, he has been licking the area where his ACL tendon would be, but has some level of soreness in his lower back near his tail and doesn't want me to touch him there. I think I've narrowed down his injury to either a slipped disc or a torn ligament, just not sure which, maybe a combination of the two if such a thing is possible? He is urinating/ defecating ok and wags his tail...

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Scribbles

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Husky

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lack Of Balance
Immobile
Numbness On Right Side
Bed Sores

My brother's husky is about 5 years old, super slim (she was eating special high protein dog food to help her gain weight), very active, happy. About a month ago my brother was outside playing fetch with the dog when she accidentally ran into the swings and got tangled. I wasn't there for the incident but he said she fell on her head/neck and he noticed the second she fell she did not move at all, he thought she died on the spot. He went over and noticed she was alive but clearly not moving anything so he stabilized her on a board and brought her to the vet. They told her she has spinal cord swelling. This has left the entire right side of her body in a paralyzed state. For a few days after the accident her right eye was droopy, and she couldn't put any weight on her right legs. But after about 5-7 days she was able to sit up (with a bit of help) and the eye droop was gone. A couple more days later she was able to stand on her feet with a harness, but she didn't bear much weight or was able to move her legs really. She is now sore and cries more in pain from bed sores. Is there a chance that her swelling is going down and she will be somewhat mobile again? Are there little things we can do to keep her comfortable? Please help

Spinal Trauma Average Cost

From 531 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,000

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